By Richard, 13 August 2007
The King Country is renowned for many things. Colin Meads, Jim Bolger, Colin Meads, umm, ....., well, uh, Coli..... OK it's not renowned for many things and one of the many things it is not renowned for is tramping.
It is however close to Hamilton, so at Queens Birthday Alistair and Eric made the trip south and Graham and I drove up and met them. Our aim was a traverse of the Pureora Forest Park.
The forecast was for a fair amount of moisture, and quite a lot of this moisture fell on Graham and I in our tents on the Friday night. It continued to be quite damp on Saturday morning when we convened at the DoC base in Pureora Village, and there was a lot of discussion on whether it would be better to go to the café in Taumaranui or just head to Hamilton. In the end we decided to go and get wet, so set off to leave one car at the road-end at the Northern end. Sadly, amongst the forestry there the roads seem to change frequently so the map didn't make much sense, so after at least an hour of driving up random forestry roads we were back at the DoC base in the rain checking out stories of suicide squads of hippie conservationists who stopped the logging of native trees there in the 1980s. We decided to quite while we were behind and left a car there.
The drive south took us through magnificently scenic New Zealand towns like Benneydale. If there is so much money in P, how come places like Benneydale still don't look good?
After going through Ongarue, we headed up the Mangakahu valley (closest ‘big' town is Taumaranui). This is a very long road that seems to have little point to it beyond servicing some goat, rock and gorse farms, so it is a bit random when you arrive at a huge gate on a narrow bit of the road. Even more randomly the gate was unlocked, but we obeyed the sign and parked anyway.
A reasonably pleasant, but always wet walk took us through to Hauhungaroa hut, this hut is new so if your map is old mark it on at S18 289697. It's a really nice hut so after about 2.5hrs walking and with the rain still hammering down we decided to stop rather than pushing on to Waihaha hut. We ate well with Eric carting in 1kg of mince for the nachos, though with all the sour cream and cheese it wasn't just the roaring coal fire making the hut stuffy. After dark a couple of trampers from Tauranga turned up full of stories of possums skinned alive and the ferocious Waitakeres.
Sunday was nice and fine, and we headed through magnificent forest, down off the Hauhungaroa ridge into the Waihaha river. Somewhere down there we passed 11 of the 18 people who had been in the 12 bunk hut the previous night, which made us extra pleased with our lazy decision. We made good time to Waihaha but after that the time dragged on a bit and it became a race to get to Bog Inn before dark. We didn't make it, which was extra slow as I had forgotten my torch. It ended up as a 12hr day. The forest in Pureora is fantastic, quite different from other places I have tramped. It is also full of birdlife, we were disturbing Kereru in most trees, and heaps of other birds chattered away all day - we didn't hear or see Kokako though.
Bog Inn was rustic but still pretty nice, except for the lack of a fire. We ate pretty well, again. Al pulled out a dozen sausages which went down a treat. The bunks weren't quite as saggy as they looked either.
It only took us a couple of hours to get out to the road end on Monday via the open top of Pureora (1165m). Of course it was claggy and drizzling again, so we didn't get a view. On the road bash back to the village we worked out roughly where the roads went, but its too hard to explain in this report so if you want to drive to the road end just ask. It's a shortish walk anyway - less than 2hrs.
It then took quite a while to drive back to the Maungakahu valley to get the other car back. A great trip into some little visited and very different North Island country.
Richard Davies - scribe